The term “melting pot” refers to the coming together of different people and cultures and the result of this can be seen throughout the islands of Hawaii. Being largely contributed to by the migration of multi-ethnic groups during the sugar plantation era, Hawaii has developed into a home for everyone.
Now, in my opinion — and I know you’ll agree with me on this if you’re currently visiting or have before — one of the best things to happen through these cultural influences is that we are definitely eating well here on the islands. Food is a never-ending topic, but let’s focus on a staple that locals here love: noodles.
A long-standing restaurant on Kauai that remains popular even with little-to-no change since it’s inception, is Hamura Saimin. Saimin is a type of noodle dish with broth that was inspired by Japanese ramen, Chinese mein, and Filipino pancit.
2956 Kress St, Lihue, HI 96766
It’s a small restaurant with traditional bar-like seating. There is no a/c, so keep in mind it’s a noodle restaurant and it’s bound to get warm. This classic spot keeps it’s menu simple with high-quality noodles combined with extras such as vegetables, meat, and egg. This place has stood its ground for 50+ years, which translates to strong return business, and for a good reason too.
Our second choice is Pho Kauai. When noodle enthusiasts want to get crazy and switch it up from their saimin diet, opting for some pho is a worthwhile indulgence. It’s also a noodle dish served with broth.
4303 Rice St # B1, Lihue, HI 96766
Pho uses thinner noodles than traditional saimin, but just as great tasting. Like Hamura, meat and vegetables are included with your bowl. The restaurant has a little bigger seating area and interestingly enough, is in the same vicinity as Hamura Saimin,
In China, it’s believed that noodles symbolize long life. So keep eating!
The best part of exploring the island is to stumble upon a place where you delight in the food you receive and form a favorable memory that will forever remind you of your travels. Perhaps it was the discovery that you like raw fish after sampling the delicious ahi shoyu poke from a local fish market, or the tropical cocktail bursting with exotic fruit that you sipped in Poipu while witnessing the spectacular beauty of your first island sunset. We encourage you to explore the flavors of the island! Below are a few of our favorite places, restaurants, bakeries, eateries, food trucks, etc. that consistently provide us with an enjoyable experience.
DINING ON THE SOUTH SIDE
If you are looking for an oceanfront, open-air restaurant for a romantic dinner, TIDEPOOLS at the Grand Hyatt offers contemporary Hawaiian cuisine. Dine in thatched roofed bungalows floating above a koi filled lagoon. All of the items on the menu are delectable. A couple of our favorites are the mac nut crusted Mahi Mahi and the prime rib.
Local landmark BRENNECKE’S BEACH BROILER is open for Lunch, Dinner and Happy Hour and overlooks Poipu Beach Park. This family style restaurant serves fresh caught fish, pasta specials, prime rib and burgers and offers live local entertainment every Friday and Saturday night.
KIAWE ROOTS is one of the newest additions to the Poipu dining scene. Located above Tortilla Republic at the Shops at Kukui’ula Kiawe Roots offers an open-air lounge-like feel that immediately makes you feel like you are dining at your own home. The menu is what you would imagine if you were eating at a local family BBQ with an upscale twist. Great prices and really good food. A few of our favorites on the menu are the Dad’s Fried Chicken Wings, Herb Shrimp Tinono, Huli Huli Chicken and all of the smoked meats.
KEOKI’S PARADISE in the Poipu Shopping Village serves Pupus in the Bamboo Bar and dinner in the Dining Room. The Bamboo Bar is fun for Tacos on Tuesday and offers $3 Tacos with either shredded Kalua Pork or Beer Battered Mahi Mahi and $6.50 House Margaritas. Aloha Hour is from 3 – 5 PM every night with Live Music & Dancing on Thursday, Friday & Saturday nights from 8:30-10:30 PM. Also located in the Poipu Shopping Village is PAPALANI GELATO Along with their famous Hawaiian Gelato and coffees, they feature a light breakfast menu, Papalani dessert and Gelato Waffles!
RED SALT at Ko’a Kea offers an ideal setting for dinner with large windows overlooking the pool and ocean. They offer contemporary upscale cuisine and a delicious sushi bar. Located on the beachfront between the Waiohai and the Sheraton, the oceanfront path is lit with flame torches at night and is the perfect location for a pre or after dinner stroll.
The Poipu Kai greenbelt leads to the oceanfront landscaped gardens fronting the The Grand Hyatt Resort and this is another great destination for an evening stroll lit by tiki torches. Tidepools, Stevenson’s Library and Dondero’s Restaurant are located here. Tidepools offers a tiki torch dinner under thatch roof surrounded by koi ponds, Stevenson’s Library offers nightly entertainment and a great sushi bar and Donderos offers casual Italian bistro dining.
The Shops at Kukui’ula boast a wide array of casual and fine dining options. For breakfast coffee and pastries visit Lapperts. Lapperts is known for its delicious handmade artisan ice cream, gelato and sorbet. For a sit down breakfast Tortilla Republic is open everyday. They offer a breakfast brunch on Sat and Sun mornings. The also offer a Taco Tuesday and Taqueria Happy Hour everyday from 3-5 and are very popular for dinner. Also located at Kukui’ula you will find Kiawe Roots, Merrimans Fish House, Dolphin Sushi and Fishmarket, Eating House 1849, and Living Foods Gourmet Market and Cafe is open everyday for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and the cafe serves baked goods, paninis and pizza, gluten free crepes and house specialties.
LA SPEZIA Restaurant and Wine Bar is located in Koloa Town opposite the Koloa Post Office and is open for breakfast and Dinner Tues through Sunday (closed on Monday).Their Sunday Brunch is offered from 8 am – 1pm.
Pizza?! Yes please.
Who doesn’t like a warm, cheesy, slice of pizza pie. There are a few really great options on Kauai to satisfy your craving.
Here are some of our favorites:
Merrimans Gourmet Pizza and Burgers, located at the Shops at Kukui’ula in Poipu
Thin-crust gourmet pizza with simple, delicious ingredients. Gluten-free crust is available.
Living Foods, located at the Shops at Kukui’ula in Poipu
Grab a hand made gourmet thin crust pizza straight from the pizza oven and head to the beach.
Brick Oven located in Kalaheo and Wailua
The pizza at Brick Oven has a thin center and thicker crust that is brushed with garlic butter and topped their own signature recipes or make your own and choose from a large variety of ingredients. They give the little ones a bit of dough to play with while you are waiting. Can’t decide on one, come for the buffet on Monday or Thursday evenings and try them all!
Look for this deliciousness at Warehouse 3540 in Lawai and various locations around the island. Food trucks done right – fresh local ingredients and crust made daily.
Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza located in the Kong Lung Center, Kilauea
Try a slice for lunch or order a whole pie to go for dinner. Thin center and a braided crust. The Billie Holiday is a favorite…and so is everything else.
North Shore Pizza and Burgers located in the Chevron station in Princeville
Organic crust and fresh made tomato sauce at a gas station! Sign us up!
Costco located in Lihue by Home Depot
It’s large, it’s cheap, and it’s pretty good.
Bar Acuda in Hanalei
This is silly, but…. the kids cheese pizza is so simple and so delicious. Please do yourself a favor and order everything else on the menu as well.
Most restaurants on Kauai offer some type of happy hour usually around 3:30pm – 5:30pm (varies by location). Most happy hour menus are not online and are changed frequently. Here are some of our favorite spots:
The Saddle Room located in Waimea is a gem. It’s like a gastropub in a country setting. Great burgers and don’t miss out on the garlic fries.
Trees Lounge in Kapaa. Happy Hour 5pm – 7pm Mon-Sat. $6 Martini Madness and Live Music.
Oasis on the Beach located in the Waipouli Beach Resort on the east side. Great view and Happy Hour daily from 4-6 p.m. $3 Draft Beers and ½ off Signature Cocktails.
Kalypso in Hanalei boasts the coldest beer on the North Shore. We tend to agree. Happy Hour is from 3:00-5:30. They have a special priced drink and pupu menu. Try some of their ice-cold beer and nachos. Wednesday night is Happy Hour all night.
Duke’s at Kalapaki Bay in Lihue has Happy Hour daily from 4:00-6:00 p.m. They offer food and drink specials for their nightly happy hour and Taco Tuesday specials every Tuesday from 4-6 p.m. $3.50 fish or kalua pork tacos, beer and margarita specials.
Merriman’s Downstairs in Poipu has a great happy hour from 4-6 p.m. Jalapeno Taro Tots are a must try for $6, Ahi Avocado Pizza for $10 just to name a few. $3 Beer and $4 wine make this a great spot for an inexpensive early dinner or a late afternoon snack.
Tortilla Republic in Poipu has happy hour from 3-5 p.m. The nachos are the best deal on the South Shore and big enough to share. $5 Margaritas and Wine, $3 Beer.
Keoki’s Paradise in Poipu has happy hour from 4-6 p.m. daily. Ice Cold draft beer for $5, tropical drink and wine specials, sliders, ribs and cheese fries all for under $7.
Rob’s Good Times Grill in Lihue by the bowling alley. Happy Hour drinks from 3-6 p.m. and half off ALL appetizers from 3-5 p.m..
Honu Bar at the Marriot Waiohai in Poipu. BEST view on the island, watch whales, surfers, beachgoers and sports all at the same time. Great Happy Hours throughout the day with drink specials. Great nachos!
Our favorites for gluten free shopping and dining while on Kauai.
Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza located in Kilauea, great selection of gluten free breads, pizzas and specialty goods. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Gopals Creperie is a food truck serving only vegetarian and gluten free crepes in Kapaa.
Caffe Coco is just before Kapaa in Wailua across from Kintaro’s. Known for fresh healthy dining under the stars. They have a ton of gluten free options as well as vegetarian and vegan.
Hukilau Lanai in Kapaa in the Coconut Coast Resort. Tons of gluten free options, great view and a nice setting.
Kauai Pasta Lihue is located in Lihue on the main road on the way to the airport. An Italian restaurant with a cute vibe. They offer brown rice pasta, which turns most menu items into gluten free options.
Art Café Hemingway in Kapaa offers a charming setting and some of the best breakfast on Kauai. They are open Wed-Sun for breakfast AND dinner. Lots of gluten free options.
While food trucks aren’t new to Kauai (shrimp, tacos, shave ice), the number of food trucks have increased substantially over the last few years. If you are coming to Kauai on a budget and want to try something new without spending a fortune on fine dining, or you are just looking for a quick bite to take to the beach, check out some of our favorite food trucks:
The Green Pig: Located on the east side at Kealia Beach. Tasty little gem with fun specialties like Fried Mac n Cheese, Jacon, and Jiggy Piggy Tails.
Kauai Food Truck: Located on the South Shore’s Old Koloa Town. Generous portions, great fish tacos, fish sandwiches and teri burgers, just to name a few.
Chef George of the Jungle: Off the beaten path on the way to Opaeka’a Falls. Healthy fresh items, fish sandwich, fresh shave ice, lamb gyro burger.
Trucking Delicious: Located in Hanalei next to the liquor store. Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, bacon gouda mac n cheese–need we say more!
Kickshaws: Located in Lawai on the South Shore next to the Fresh Shave, location changes occasionally. Exceptional burgers and sandwiches. Try the Vegan or Pork Bahn Mi.
Fresh Shave: Located in Lawai on the South Shore next to Kickshaws. Handcrafted shave ice using fresh organic ingredients served with a mustache straw.
If you have time, there are many other trucks worth mentioning:
Porky’s, Hanapepe Friday Art Night
Hanalei Juice and Taro, Saturday Farmers Market at the Community College & Hanalei daily
Pat’s Taqueria, by the Pier in Hanalei
Chalupas, just behind the shops in Old Koloa Town
Annatas Thai Food, in the Ace Hardware parking lot in Lihue off Rice Street
Warehouse 3540 also serves as a popular spot that food trucks regularly operate at; click here for more info
There are a lot of fine dining dinner establishments on Kauai. We have a few that we would like to share with you.
Kiawe Roots: Newly opened restaurant by local residents and Roots Of Culture Food Truck owner Mark & Tricia Ruiz; this special place serves a modern flare, bringing forth tastes from their childhood past mixed with food they’ve grown to love through their cultural and culinary experiences. Taste the ono (delicious) food grilled over Kiawe, Hawaiian for mesquite. Simple techniques, simple ingredients, unique flavors.
Red Salt: Located inside the boutique Koa Kea Resort in Poipu, you will find one of our favorite dining options on Kauai. The service is exceptional and, while you aren’t directly on the ocean, the views are nice. Don’t miss the sushi in the lounge before you sit for dinner and, after dinner, you must try the Root Beer Float (the cookie is the main attraction).
Kauai Grill: Overlooking Hanalei Bay and Bali Hai at the St. Regis resort, the Kauai Grill boasts some of the best views in Hawaii. The ambiance is comfortable and elegant with zebrawood and a lit circular ceiling. The food is a mix of chef Jean-Georges masterpieces from around the world.
RumFire: Located in Poipu at the Sheraton Resort, Rumfire has one of the best oceanfront locations on the island. Enjoy the view with an appetizer or one of the diverse selections of entrees. Sit at Table 53 and a portion of your dinner will go to a local charity.
Bar Acuda: This Hanalei gem is a hip place to relax with friends and enjoy a glass of wine. The food has a Mediterranean flair with locally sourced ingredients. Not exactly ‘a fine dining restaurant because they serve tapas, but definitely one of the nicer restaurants on Kauai.
Kauai Ono: Kauai Ono is a gourmet restaurant on wheels. They set up twice a week at different locations and typically sell out. You get a 5-course meal that changes daily depending on what is in season and fresh. Communal tables are set up so that you can interact with other patrons and if you want something to drink it is BYOB.
Private Chef: Bring Chef Tommy of Kauai Custom Catering (808-332-9856) to the destination of your choosing for a fine dining experience to remember. Set a budget and tell Tommy what you like, and he delivers, on personality too!
Beat the tropical heat with refreshingly cool island treats!
Our favorite cool treats:
Juice/Smoothies. Being on a tropical island gives us a special advantage to create amazing fresh juice and smoothies. Kauai Juice Company in Kapaa and Poipu is producing some of the best juice and Kombouca on island. Banana Joes in Kilauea is our first stop for smoothies.
Ice Cream & Gelato. Lapperts has to be one of our favorite ice cream stores on island, and they also have gelato. Try a few samples before you pick your favorite. Pink’s Creamery in Hanalei serves some seriously delicious homemade ice cream with creative local flavors. Papalani Gelato in Poipu and Kalapaki has mastered the art of gelato as well as gluten and dairy free sorbetto with fresh island fruit.
Warm tropical breezes, the ocean waves gently rocking back and forth, the sea spray, seeing a whale breach in the distance – this is why you came to Kauai. So, why not dine with a view for your special occasion or just even a quick lunch.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Red Salt: Located inside the boutique Koa Kea Resort in Poipu, you will find one of our favorite dining options on Kauai. The service is exceptional and while you aren’t directly on the ocean the views are nice. Don’t miss the sushi in the lounge before you sit for dinner and after dinner you must try the Root Beer Float (the cookie is the main attraction).
Honu Bar: Located on the beach at the Marriot Waiohai in Poipu. The Honu Bar has some of the best views and people watching on the island. A great spot to watch a sports game, surfers, whales and beachgoers. The food is decent, not too fancy, and they have good happy hours at different times of the day.
Beach House Restaurant: Located in Poipu. Often seen on lists as the best sunset view on Kauai for good reason. There are lots of local fresh fish options and some pretty good calamari. Be sure to make reservations because this restaurant is a ‘must do’ on every traveler’s list.
St. Regis: Located in Princeville. The St. Regis Resort boasts some of the best views in Hawaii. Overlooking Hanalei Bay and Bali Hai, you have a couple of dining options, all with a view. The pool is a good casual place for lunch. The bar offers a great location to relax with a cocktail and watch the sunset. The Kauai Grill and Makana Terrace offer fine dining options in the evening. All are fantastic.
We are addicted, let’s admit it, now that we have where do we drink our favorite caffeinated beverages?
Ha Coffee Bar in Lihue on Rice Street. It has a hip vibe, occasional live music and really supports the local economy by sourcing most of the products from Kauai. Moderate amount of seating and the parking lot is small, go during off peak hours.
Lapperts: Many locations on Kauai serving exceptional coffee, baked goods and ice cream. A double soy latte and their enormous macadamia nut sticky buns will keep you fueled all morning long. Some seating, but mostly a grab and go.
Kalaheo Coffee Company: Located on the southwest side of Kauai is a busy full service restaurant serving great coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Plenty of seating but you might have a short wait for a table.
Little Fish Coffee: In the quaint west side town of Hanapepe sits this fun little coffee shop. To say they only serve coffee is an understatement, they have many breakfast options. Grab a bagel sandwich and sit in the peaceful lanai or take a cinnamon roll to go and stroll thru Hanapepe town and the swinging bridge.
Also, conveniently located at 2290 Poipu Rd, Koloa fronting the Poipu Beach Athletic Club. Download their app and save time waiting in line.
Kilauea Bakery: Located on Kauai’s north shore in Kilauea on the way to the lighthouse. Bialy, Bialy, Bialy…house made bagels stuffed with many different savory delights. Sticky buns and many other fresh baked goods. Full coffee bar and a nice selection on gluten free and vegan options make this a great stop before exploring the north shore.
Hanalei Coffee Roasters: In the heart of Hanalei this little coffee shop is delivering some of the best coffee on island. Be sure to try the waffles, they are amazing.
Start your day the right way with a nice breakfast; so often missed in our everyday life that it is a treasured meal on vacation. Whether you are lingering over a superb cup of coffee and a delicious omelet or grabbing a hearty bagel before you begin your hike, breakfast truly is the best start to your day.
It is hard to pick just a few of our favorites because there are so many wonderful breakfast options on Kauai, but here we go:
Kountry Kitchen: Located in Kapaa, this is your traditional breakfast go to location. Large portions, comfort foods and some of the best macadamia nut pancakes you will ever have. Often, there is a long line but it does move pretty quickly.
Art Café Hemingway: Located in Kapaa with great art vibes, fresh baked goods and European flair. If you want to sit and enjoy a nice espresso and chat with friends over a croissant, this is the place for you. Good selection of vegetarian items, fun plates such as ‘old man and the sea’ which has smoked salmon, baguette, eggs and crabmeat salad.
Tortilla Republic: Located on Kauai’s South Shore at the Kukui’ula Shopping Center. This is a fun place for breakfast when you are looking for something a little different. Popular Mexican breakfast items such as Huevos Rancheros and the delicious Relleno Poblano. On the weekends, enjoy a bottomless mimosa with your entrée.
Kilauea Bakery: Located on Kauai’s North Shore in Kilauea on the way to the lighthouse. Bialy, Bialy, Bialy…house made bagels stuffed with many different savory delights as well as sticky buns and many other fresh baked goods. Full coffee bar and a nice selection of gluten free and vegan options make this a great stop before exploring the North Shore.
Little Fish Coffee: They just opened in Poipu right across from Kiahuna Plantation on Poipu Rd. in a bright orange building. To say they only serve coffee is an understatement. They have many delicious breakfast and lunch options.
Kids are welcome in bars in Hawaii as long as food is served. However, it is up to the discretion of the establishment if they wish for children to not sit at the bar. Just ask if you aren’t sure.
Dining with the entire family makes vacation memories that last a lifetime. Of course the food trucks and plate lunches all offer great options for children, but sometimes you want to go out for a special meal where everyone is happy and children are catered to. Here are some of our favorites:
Keoki’s Paradise in Poipu: Great kid’s menu without all the fried stuff. Fun atmosphere in both the bamboo bar and dining room. Great Happy Hour for the adults and kids are welcome at all hours. Live music some nights.
Duke’s Barefoot Bar and Restaurant in Lihue: Same ownership as Keoki’s so you will find the same experience although the menus are different. Try the hula pie; you only need one for the table. They are HUGE.
Dolphin Restaurant in Hanalei and Poipu: Nice setting and kids can play on the grass while you are relaxing at either location. Nice kids menu with some ‘non’ fried items, which kids enjoy after traveling for a bit.
Eating House 1849 in Poipu: While this is a Roy’s restaurant, it is much more casual compared to the other Roy’s in Hawaii. The children’s menu is good with options that aren’t just fried such as the saimin. Kids get a quesadilla to start and ice cream to finish. For adults, the menu is fun; enjoy a whole grilled snapper or Roy’s Fried Chicken.
The Grand Hyatt in Poipu: Every restaurant at the Hyatt caters to kids. The menus are great and include starter, entrée and dessert. Kids receive a little toy and crayons. The servers ask their name and really make sure they have fun. For fine dining with kids, we like to go to Tidepools so the kids can view the koi pond.
Hanalei Gourmet: Typical kids menu with food kids like. More casual atmosphere and fun shopping before or after your meal. Don’t miss Taco Thursdays!
Brick Oven Pizza in Wailua and Kalaheo: Great family atmosphere and good pizza.
They give the kids a little bit of dough to play with while you are waiting for your steaming hot pizza. Buffets on Mondays and Thursdays.
Verde in Kapaa: Good food and great for a little bit more casual dining with full service. Kids will love the quesadillas, nachos and tacos.